Top Doctor Top Doctor
The Top Doctor award is a peer-nominated award for providers who give exceptional care.

Janis L. Abkowitz, MD

Physician
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Adjunct Professor, Genome Sciences
University of Washington School of Medicine
Head, Division of Hematology
UW Medicine
Specialties:
Medical Oncology, Hematology
“I enjoy getting to know my patients and their families, solving difficult diagnostic problems and designing personalized treatment strategies.”
— Dr. Abkowitz
What do you want patients to know about you?

My passion for combining science with clinical medicine drives the work I do every day — as a doctor, researcher and educator. When you come to SCCA for care, it’s important to me to be attentive not only to your medical needs but to who you are as a person. Many of my patients have chronic diseases, which means I get to develop long-standing relationships with them and their families. I enjoy teaching them about their disease so they become a partner in their health care decisions.

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What is your approach to caring for a patient?

I’ve had the opportunity to work abroad in many different countries — including eastern Congo, Kashmir, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Guatemala — and to travel with my family to many more, including Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan, China and Sri Lanka. These experiences have shaped what it means to me to provide high-quality, appropriate care to everyone, including people who come from different backgrounds than mine and who may have different views of illness as well as varying perspectives on life and death. I bring a sensitivity to and appreciation for differences in personal priorities, religion and culture to my relationships with patients.

Provider background

Specialties: Medical Oncology, Hematology

Area of clinical practice

Hematologic malignancies, non-malignant hematology

Blood cancers

I’ve been caring for people with a wide spectrum of blood cancers and other blood-related problems since 1983. In that time, there have been major developments in our ability to both diagnose and treat blood disorders. For example, there have been huge advances in how we molecularly characterize a disease, or how we detect chromosomal and DNA abnormalities associated with the disease. This has translated into more effective targeted therapies in general, and more appropriate therapies for individual patients, because we understand more about their particular disease. SCCA is on the leading edge of these advances with both our laboratory research and our clinical trials. My specialty is working with people who have cytopenias, or low blood counts, and bone marrow failure or dysregulation, which can cause too few or too many blood cells. These diseases include myelodysplastic syndromes (bone marrow problems leading to low levels of blood cells in your bloodstream) and myeloproliferative diseases (bone marrow problems leading to high levels of blood cells in your bloodstream), particularly polycythemia vera and essential thrombocytosis. My laboratory research focuses on the molecular and cellular events that control red blood cell differentiation (the process where cells become specialized in order to perform different functions), especially how these cells grow and how their differentiation fails in aplastic anemia and myelodysplasia.

Anemia A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal. Benign Not cancer. Benign tumors may grow larger but do not spread to other parts of the body. Bone marrow The soft, spongy material in the center of your bones that produces all your blood cells, such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Differentiation In cancer care, differentiation describes how much a tumor looks like the normal tissue it came from. It is used in tumor grading systems, which are different for each type of cancer. In biology, describes the processes by which immature cells become mature cells with specific functions. In cancer, this describes how much or how little tumor tissue looks like the normal tissue it came from. Well-differentiated cancer cells look more like normal cells and tend to grow and spread more slowly than poorly differentiated or undifferentiated cancer cells. Differentiation is used in tumor grading systems, which are different for each type of cancer. Red blood cell A type of blood cell that carries oxygen in the body. Targeted therapy A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. Some targeted therapies block the action of certain enzymes, proteins or other molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Other types of targeted therapies help the immune system kill cancer cells, or they deliver toxic substances directly to cancer cells and kill them. Targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatment. Most targeted therapies are either small molecule drugs or monoclonal antibodies.

Diseases treated

Education, experience and certifications
Undergraduate Degree
Harvard University
Medical Degree
Harvard Medical School
Residency
Beth Israel Hospital, Internal Medicine
Fellowship
University of Washington, Hematology
Board Certification
Medical Oncology, 1983; Hematology, 1982; Internal Medicine, 1980, American Board of Internal Medicine
Other
Member, Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2017–2021; Elected to the National Academy of Medicine, 2013; President, American Society of Hematology, 2013; Internship, Beth Israel Medical Center
Languages
English
Awards
Seattle Met’s 2013 and 2014 Top Doctors award
Pioneer Award, Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation, 2018

Research

Clinical trials

We make promising new treatments available to you through studies called clinical trials led by SCCA doctors. Many of these trials at SCCA have led to FDA-approved treatments and have improved standards of care globally. Together, you and your doctor can decide if a study is right for you.

Publications

Many of our SCCA physicians conduct ongoing research to improve standards of patient care. Their work is evaluated by other physicians and selected for publication to the United States National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world. See scientific papers this SCCA provider has written.

Your care team

At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a team coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.
Registered nurse (RN)
Registered nurse (RN)
Your nurse manages your care alongside your physician and assists with care procedures and treatments.
Patient care coordinator
Patient care coordinator
Your patient care coordinator works closely with you and your physician and serves as your scheduler.

Insurance

SCCA accepts most national private health insurance plans as well as Medicare. We also accept Medicaid for people from Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. We are working to ensure that everyone, no matter what their financial situation, has access to the care they need.

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